Fall of the American Athlete

Fall of the American Athlete

With one well-placed left hook to the jaw, the seemingly impossible became a shocking fact. UFC Middleweight Champion, future hall of fame inductee and quite possibly the greatest fighter to ever live Anderson Silva lay sprawled and prone on the canvas as his opponent Chris Weidman moved in for the knockout. All things must come to pass in the world of sports and champions are destined to be dethroned. After ten title defenses, who could complain? Well, unfortunately for the new champion Weidman, he didn’t beat Silva. {{more}}Silvia’s ego beat Silva. Oft-derided for his cockiness in the octagon, Silva chose to taunt his opponent instead of fighting him. Taunting opponents had been an issue before but in this fight it cost Silva the belt. While Silva is not an American athlete, his lack of humility is all too common in American sports. It is part of a “me first,” culture that is poisoning the integrity of all sports in our great nation.One cannot turn on the news or open a newspaper and not be visually assaulted by scandal after scandal. Professional sports in America are literally taking left hook after left hook to the jaw. And the real question in sports today has to be, “how much are we going to take?”If it’s not Aaron Hernandez being charged with murder, it’s Biogenesis helping to fuel an on-going “steroid era,” in baseball. If it’s not Biogenesis and steroids, it’s Penn State covering up for Jerry Sandusky. If it’s not Penn State, it’s Tyson Gay testing positive in a sport that has supposedly cleaned up its act. If not Gay, then Urban Meyer reporting his former school for recruiting violations only to suspend his starting running back shortly after for not upholding team character. I could go on and nausea.Athletic prowess and success used to be a quality admired and revered by all. To be the greatest of any sport was to be a legend. There will never be another Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan, or Muhammad Ali. Ali was the epitome of what it takes to be the greatest as were the others. Yet, athletes of today are just as likely to wind up on Look Who Got Busted, as they are to score a touchdown or hit a home run.So how did this come to be? What went wrong in the greatest nation on the planet to cause such a shift in what is revered in the qualities of our athletes? Who gets the blame?Certainly the ever increasing salaries must be a factor. Money is said to be the root of all evil. But the salaries are in direct relation to the revenues generated. Revenue has increased as television coverage has increased. Television coverage has become more and more lucrative as a result of advertising revenues. But can it be so simple to lay the blame at the feet of the almighty dollar?I don’t think it’s that easy. Some have said that the rise of hip hop culture may be the cause. The athletes of today are “too gangster.” Hernandez is sleeved out with tattoos but so are Collin Koeppernick, Jeremy Shockey and a hundred other baseball, football, basketball and soccer players. Tattoos don’t equal character or lack of character. It is true though that the “gangster,” has become a much revered character in American society. So what can we truly expect out of young men when a self-proclaimed, violent crack dealer such as Jay Z is a friend of the President?Ahh, now there is an interesting question.But then again, wasn’t there a rather high profile outlaw and drug user named Willie Nelson that was a guest of President Jimmie Carter at the White House?Hmmm, I think there was.So is it the lack of God? Is it the fracturing of the American family unit? Is it Ritalin?How about, “D: All the above,” for the win?You cannot replace honesty, hard work, loyalty, kindness and respect with the dollar. You cannot systematically remove the closest semblance of morality while replacing it with the short-sighted selfishness and greed of Wall Street. Unless you expect to get the result that we have.Athletes today are conditioned to ask for more money and sell their loyalty to the highest bidder. But who can teach them such things as loyalty, honesty, hard work, kindness and respect? Families don’t stay together the way they once did. So scratch that idea. A person can scarcely mention God in the same sentence as morality without being assailed as a bigot or an extremist. Fans of today’s sports have such short attention spans that they cannot even get through a game without playing a fantasy game during the commercials. Commercials which encourage consumers to: drink the coldest beers, eat the most fattening food, and then drive home in their new car. This shallow, short sighted, no-commitment culture is working toward being the next constitutional amendment. Oh, how we love our rights.What is going on in the world of sports is the same thing that is going on in the world. Athletes are simply pinned beneath the spotlight. God impedes the right to do as a person pleases and so God is removed because we love our rights. Consequentially the family fractures, excuses are made for the lack of attention or poor behavior of individuals as children, the behavior continues until this individual grows into a professional athlete without principles and decides to play Al Capone at night. Multimillion dollar contract is signed and lookout, here come the arrests.Athletes are just people and perhaps it isn’t fair that they are beneath the spotlight? Perhaps social media, viral videos, and around the clock news coverage puts a fair number of poorly equipped individuals into a nearly impossible situation. And that is where rights truly come in to play a part.Charles Barkley once said, “I am not a role model.”But Barkley did choose to be a professional athlete. And while Barkley certainly was no saint during his career, he hasn’t been on the news for killing anyone. Barkley has principles. America does not expect all of their heroes to be saints.Any of the aforementioned athletes had their indiscretions. Jordan, Ruth, Ali all had their moments of embarrassment. The difference is in the character that shone through despite the mistakes made. It is nearly unthinkable to imagine Jordan being on the news for murdering someone. It’s not a far-stretch of the imagination to see today’s athlete in handcuffs.And while American sports fans may not expect saints, we must demand more of our athletes. We must demand more of ourselves at home in raising and developing these athletes. We must demand more out of the culture that surrounds athletics the same as we must demand more out of the communities that are our homes. We must, unless we are prepared to continue watching the fall of the American athlete.